Thursday, March 08, 2007

Town Hall Rich List

Typical local authority Director for Community Leadership

The TaxPayers' Alliance has today published its Town Hall Rich List. For the first time we can see just how many council officials are getting paid those FTSE 100 style salaries.

The headlines are:

  • 578 are paid more than £100,000 pa

  • 5 are paid more than £200,000 pa- top is Peter Gilroy, chief executive of Kent County Council, on £229,999

  • Their average pay is £125,000 pa

  • The bill is £72m- a staggering 36% increase on the previous year (and remember, the cost of pension contributions etc is on top of that)

  • Their latest pay rise was 6.1%- far higher than most of their underlings

As the Report points out, these senior officials have found several interesting ways of boosting their pay (it's called gaming the system); for example:

  • Election duties- Chief Executives, and in some cases other senior officers, undertake Returning Officer duties for local elections. This enables them to award themselves hefty payouts: eg the CEO of Caerphilly council, Malgwyn Davies, was paid £20,824.84 for Returning Officer duties in 2004-05

  • Reorganisations- Senior staff turnover in many local councils is rapid, and many of the same local authorities are undertaking reorganisations almost every year. It's an excellent excuse to increase pay at the top end: eg in Camden "Peter Bishop’s position changed from Director of Environment to Director of Culture & Environment; Neil Litherland’s position changed from Director of Housing to Director of Housing & Adult Social Care; and Heather Schroeder’s position changed from Director of Social Services to Director of Children, Schools & Families. The remuneration of each of the three was increased from £112,003 to £145,200, a rise of almost 30 per cent in a single year"

The Report also highlights the sharp contrast between the scale of these packages and the often dire poverty of the communities the councils supposedly serve: eg the council employing the highest number of officials on pay of over £100,000 is Tower Hamlets, which has 27- even though Tower Hamlets is one of the poorest boroughs in the country (the TPA has a vid showing how they got on when they visited Tower Hamlets- I'll link it later).

One thing's for certain: no local electors ever got consulted about any of these pay packages. Even though they always pick up the tab.

Now, having worked in the public sector himself, Tyler has never been a big taker of that public service ethos thing: you pay peanuts and on average you're going to get monkeys. So nobody expects LA officials to work for nothing.

But we're hardly talking peanuts here. And in the private sector, the really Big Bucks are reserved for risk takers and innovators. Not administrators and functionaries.

Yes, there are some very able and motivated people working for LAs (as mentioned previously on BOM, in a previous life Tyler used to meet senior LA officials regularly). But these days, the job mainly comprises executing policies handed down from Whitehall, and explaining to tiresome local councillors why they can't deviate from those policies.

Merely increasing the salaries we pay to these senior officials is not going to improve local government one jot. It's just going to increase our Council Tax bills, drain cash away from the frontline, and raise our blood pressure. It's money down the drain.

As we've blogged many times, what we need is real local democracy powered by real fiscal decentralisation (eg see Direct Democracy).

PS For some unaccountable (literally) reason, local authorities are not keen to publicise their top salaries. So the TPA had to extract this info authority by authority under a barrage of 230 separate FOI requests. Some particularly secretive councils such as North Yorkshire and Brighton and Hove, have point blank refused pending a TPA appeal(see name and shame list in Report). TPA Head of Research Corin Taylor deserves a medal- as well as a couple of beers.

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